STORY: Teachers Vidya Sawant (Shabana Azmi) and Jyoti Thakur (Juhi Chawla) impart knowledge and values to students in a middle-class school. However, when an ambitious shrew becomes the principal, they are forced to wage a ‘war’ to safeguard their legacy.
Made with an intention of showcasing the worms in the current education system, where money often gets merit over capability; this film can be lauded to some degree. However, it flounders in the first half due to its tacky narrative approach. Told like a TV serial, it takes the oft-taken path of following the underprivileged on local train rides to the Mumbai chawl. Okay so the point of a teacher’s life being hard is made. Yet, it’s predictable to see Shabana dabbing sweat with her sari pallav as she gets off an over-crowded Virar local, buying vada pav and keeping the positive spirit at home that has a handicapped husband (Girish Karnad) and their about-to-be chartered accountant daughter. The revered teacher also coaches the neighbourhood children for free!
Then, there is Juhi who is slightly more privileged than her didi, Shabana. She can buy a car on installments. These two teachers also have hardworking colleagues, who become sisters in misery when Kamini Gupta(Divya Dutta) a devil wearing designer sarees is appointed as the principal. Divya is more unreasonable than Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters put together. The shock of having to bear her nastiness gives Shabana a heart condition. Juhi exits the school and vows to get back the ‘honour’ of her didi and herself. So, they reach out to a media person, Richa Chadha, an IAS officer, a Minister, conscientious past students from the world over and even win Rs 5 crore in a KBC-styled contest, with Rishi Kapoor in a cameo as the quiz master!
The execution for the most part is clumsy. Yet somewhere in the second half, Gilatar redeems himself and the film. He touches on the importance of teachers in our lives and shows the apathy of the powers-that-are towards providing equal education opportunities. It also gives us a proud India moment as we watch two teachers pass a GQ contest with flying colours. Life, after all, whether in a cinema hall or on the outside is about minor triumphs (staged or otherwise), isn’t it?
Shabana and Juhi are irritatingly saccharine initially; but get firmly in the saddle soon. They’re from the dependable lot of actresses after all.